In hindsight, I realize that the question, “Do you have yellow?” was the only consistent inquiry throughout the trip.
Yellow is Molly’s blanket that has been an important part of our lives from around the time Molly turned one. Yellow has a preschool education that she obtained by attending classes with Molly, has suffered the indignity of spending a long afternoon and evening in a rag bag before being rescued and delivered back home late at night by a fellow mother who understood her importance and has now traveled around the world.
We left over 140 places in the course of our year and as I reflect back I marvel that it was the only consistent question. You see, I’ve been one of “those” helicopter mothers; the type — in spite of criticism by both self and others – that have a habit of hovering and rescuing. However, the ongoing question of “do you have yellow?” seems to be one of the few surviving remnants of that habit to survive our yearlong journey.
While the constant togetherness could have re-enforced the habit, it had the exact opposite effect. You see, witnessing, on an ongoing and consistent basis how very capable my children are, the habit naturally fell by the wayside. It was amazing to watch as their good judgment, responsible behavior and ability to keep track of both themselves and all their stuff never wavered.
They seemed to instinctively know when to stick close, take a hand or when it was safe to wander. They remembered to remove their pedometers before swimming while Dan and I both unceremoniously drowned ours. They faced down extremely long travel days, boredom, confusion, uncertainty, scary situations and weird food (and sometimes no food) without complaint.
While we had set up all sorts of systems to keep them safe, including wearing whistles, secretly stashed cash, money belts with contact cards and copies of emergency documents and even walkie talkies, they never once needed to rely on their back up systems. Instead they kept their wits about them.
They showed such grace and responsibility that we eventually felt comfortable leaving them in apartments, hostels, guest houses and hotels all over the world while we went for groceries or out for a run, knowing that they would know how to deal with an emergency, even without knowing the language.
They did math, research and read copiously without being asked, often going way beyond anything we would have suggested, like the time Theo taught himself the hieroglyphic alphabet so that he could “read” the things we were seeing and wondering about.
I kid you not when I say we NEVER nagged them to do their math. Instead, as we drove or rode along, they would pull out their work and start doing it long before it occurred to us to ask them to.
They learned to curb their impatience, grouchy feelings and tempers. Molly even learned how to deal with hormone induced mood swings by calmly stating that she felt upset, impatient or sad, and was best left alone for the time being. (Left alone being relevant as she was often only able to obtain a bit of psychic space since there was often no physical space to be had.)
In other words, Molly and Theo were amazing travelers and companions, doing their part to make the year, on a scale of one to ten, an eleven. So, while I may no longer be one of “those” helicopter mothers, it occurs to me that I now sound like one of “those” mothers who brag. Always something to work on!
And just for the record, Yellow made it back to Denver, well traveled, still well loved and a bit less yellow!